MPs to vote on plain packaging before election

Oliver Smith
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Australia introduced plain packaging in 2012
Rules on enforcing plain packaging for cigarettes, similar to Australia’s move to ban advertising on the packaging of cigarettes in 2012, could be introduced in the UK by May.

Health minister Jane Ellison made the surprise announcement last night that the government would propose a bill before the next general election for MPs to vote on.

“Having considered all the evidence, the secretary of state and I believe that the policy is a proportionate and justified response to the considerable public health harm from smoking tobacco,” said Ellison. “In doing so we would be bringing the prospect of our first smoke-free generation one step closer.”

An Imperial Tobacco spokesperson said the company is “very surprised and disappointed. More than two years into the failed plain packaging experiment in Australia there’s no meaningful evidence to show it’s had any impact on smoking rates, but illicit trade has gone up.”

While research in July last year showed daily smoking rates in Australia fell 15 per cent between 2010 and 1 December 2013, tobacco firms dispute the findings.

Former Deutsche Bank head of consumer research, where he covered tobacco, Jon Fell said he didn’t expect any share price reaction this morning following the government’s reaction.

“The overall impact on the tobacco is likely to be extremely small if not entirely negligible,” Fell told City A.M.

MPs are expected to be given a free vote on the issue before Parliament is dissolved ahead of the election, and the vote would likely pass as Labour has already pledged to introduce plain packaging if they come to power.

“I have reviewed the evidence, and agree that standardised packaging would be a positive move for public health, particularly the role it could play in helping to prevent the uptake of smoking by children,” said chief medical officer for England Professor Sally Davies.

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